With more than 93,000 ballots to review and examine in the state’s third-largest county, it could take days to complete a recount in Iowa’s still uncalled 2nd congressional district race.
That was the assessment Tuesday from Scott County Auditor Roxanna Moritz as a three-member recount board convened at 8 a.m. at the former minimum-security jail turned county warehouse-building on Tremont Avenue in Davenport to begin the recount process.
“This is big — the sheer volume of doing this many counties,” Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate said of the district-wide recount.
Pate stopped in Davenport on Tuesday morning to observe the recount, the first to take place in the still-too-close-to-call U.S. House race.
Republican state Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks of Ottumwa still holds a 47-vote lead over Democratic former state senator Rita Hart of Wheatland out of the more than 394,000 votes cast in the race.
Hart has requested a recount in all 24 counties in the southeastern Iowa district.
During the last two weeks, the race has see-sawed back and forth by slim margins between the two candidates due to reporting errors discovered in precincts in Jasper and Lucas counties.
Miller-Meeks has claimed victory, and both candidates were in Washington, D.C., last week to participate in orientation for new members of Congress.
Counties have 18 calendar days from their canvass of votes to complete their recounts, which would be Nov. 27 or 28. And state election officials will need amended results by Nov. 30 in order to certify the general election results statewide and declare an official winner. The Associated Press also announced it will not call the race until then.
“So the clock is ticking,” Pate said. “Scott County is ahead of the game, and I applaud them for that.”
Pate said most recounts in other counties should start later this week, with heavily Democratic Johnson County schedule to begin its recount on Wednesday.
Pate said both Scott and Johnson counties, the two largest counties in the congressional district, will be the ones to watch that could swing the outcome in the race.
Miller-Meeks run up the score in rural counties, flipping counties that voted for President Donald Trump but backed retiring seven-term Democratic incumbent Dave Loebsack in 2016, while cutting into Hart’s margin of victory in the four Democratic counties she won — Scott, Clinton, Johnson and Jefferson counties.
Hart received roughly 70% of the vote in Johnson County, but Miller-Meeks outperformed President Donald Trump in the county by about 1,170 more votes, while Hart received about 3,000 fewer votes than President-elect Joe Biden.
Tim Hagle, associate professor of political science at the University of Iowa, and Grant Woodard, a Des Moines attorney and former Iowa Democratic campaign operative, said Hart will want to focus on Johnson County in the hopes of squeezing out a few more votes. Registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans more than 2-to-1 in the county, making up for any Republican registration advantages elsewhere in the district.
The three-member recount board — picked by the campaigns — does not analyze or review any ballots that were not previously counted, and will not analyze or review canceled, defective, provisional, rejected or spoiled ballots, as election officials have already made decisions regarding whether these ballots should be counted, Pate said. Rather, the board will be looking for anomalies that might have happened on Election Day and whether election officials tabulated votes that may not have been counted appropriately or correctly.
“Their main purpose today and the next two days, probably, is to make sure the math is accurate,” Pate said. “Unless there’s some significant gaffe, you don’t see a lot of movement (in a recount). Because, typically, the trend that you had in the original county would continue. Meaning if one candidate was getting two votes to the other candidates one or one and a half (votes), that ratio tends to stay the same.”
But with a margin of just 47 votes, “I think there’s a lot of potential for the vote to sway one way or the other. We’ll know more of that as each county comes in,” Pate said.
The Secretary of State again credited the checks and balances built into the system for their ability to catch reporting errors early and fix them before results were certified.
Moritz, too, said despite a national narrative that has sowed distrust and mistrust of the integrity of U.S. elections and election officials, “I have faith in our process. I have faith in our system, and I have faith in our equipment.”
“We’ve had four recounts now and three post-audit elections (since being elected to the office 12 years ago), and every one of them have came out (the same as on election night),” with the exception of a one vote difference in the 2019 Davenport mayor’s race due to a mismarked ballot where the board could clearly identify the voter’s intent, but the machine could not, Moritz said.
Sullivan family home
Sullivan brothers at home on Adams in Waterloo
Courier Dec. 21, 1941
Sullivans -- Alleta, James, Albert, Madison
Katherine Sullivan McFarland (1922-2016)
Courier Jan. 4, 1942
Sullivan brothers at home
Courier Feb. 15, 1942
Sullivans with Jack Dempsey
Courier March 4, 1942
Courier March 15, 1942
Courier April 26, 1942
Courier Jan. 12, 1943
Courier Jan. 12, 1943
Alleta and Thomas Sullivan
Alleta Sullivan's letter to the Navy
FDR letter fo Sullivan family
location of USS Juneau sinking
U.S. Navy report, Battle of Guadalcanal Nov. 13, 1942
U.S. Navy survivor battle report Nov. 17, 1942
USS Juneau survivor Lester Zook
USS Juneau survivor Lester Zook, close-up
Courier Jan. 14, 1943
Courier Jan. 15, 1943
Red Sullivan and Margaret Jaros
Alleta Sullivan & Margaret Jaros
Courier Jan. 17, 1943
Courier Jan. 19, 1943
'What have you given for war?'
Courier Jan. 27, 1943
Sullivans telegram from vice president
Courier Feb. 3, 1943
Courier Feb. 7, 1943
Courier Feb. 8, 1943
Courier Feb. 9, 1943
U.S. Navy battle report
Navy docs -- President approves USS The Sullivans
Courier Feb. 10, 1943
Courier Feb. 14, 1943
Genevieve and Alleta Sullivan
Courier Feb. 23, 1943
Courier Feb. 24, 1943
Courier April 4, 1943
Navy doc -- USS The Sullivans launch speech April 4, 1943
Courier April 5, 1943
Genevieve heads to Navy training
Genevieve Sullivan WAVE
Courier May 30, 1943
Courier July 11, 1943
Courier Aug. 6, 1943
Purple Hearts bestowed
U.S. Navy Sullivan Purple Hearts document Jan. 24, 1944
Courier Jan. 25, 1944
Courier Feb. 4, 1944
Courier Feb. 13, 1944
Sullivan movie scene
Sullivan movie cast
Courier March 19, 1944
Courier Dec. 31, 1944
Genevieve Sullivan and Murray Davidson
Courier May 1, 1959
Courier Nov. 11, 1962
Courier Sept. 20, 1964
Courier March 2, 1965
Murray Davidson Jr. joins Naval Reserve
Courier April 23, 1973
Alleta Sullivan funeral
Genevieve Davidson obituary
Plaque Schoitz Memorial Hospital
Courier Aug. 6, 1992
Dedication of Convention Center
Sullivan Brothers Museum -- outside
Sullivan Brothers Museum statues
Katherine McFarland, 2008
Katherine McFarland, 2012
Juneau wreckage bittersweet find for Sullivans, families
WATERLOO -- Saturday's discovery of the wreckage of the USS Juneau, on which Waterloo's five Sullivan brothers served and perished with nearly 700 shipmates during World War II, was an emotional, bittersweet experience for the fallen sailors' descendants.
"There's over 700 Navy families affected by this and my heart goes out to all those people," said Kelly Sullivan, granddaughter of Albert Sullivan and grandniece of George, Francis, Joseph and Madison Sullivan, who all died after the Juneau was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine and sunk on Nov. 13, 1942.
"For me, it's like finding my grandfather's grave," said Knute Swensen of Huntington Beach, Calif., the grandson of the Juneau's commanding officer, Capt. Lyman K. Swenson, also among the Juneau dead.
The crew of the Research Vessel Petrel, on an expedition financed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, found the Juneau's wreck at the bottom of "Ironbottom Sound" off Guadalcanal in the Solomons on St. Patrick's Day.
In an audio accompanying a video of the wreckage, Robert Kraft, director of subsea operations for the expedition, noted it was appropriate the Juneau's remains were discovered on St. Patrick's Day, given the Sullivan brothers' Irish heritage.
"The luck of the Irish was with them," Kelly Sullivan said, echoing a wish she made for the USS The Sullivans, the current Navy destroyer named for her grandfather and great uncles, when she christened the ship in Bath, Maine, in 1995. She is the official Navy sponsor of that ship.
This wknd Paul Allen’s team found wreckage of WW2 USS Juneau in Pacific Ocean In 1942 this ship was sunk by Japanese torpedo carrying the 5 Sullivan brothers of Waterloo These Iowa heroes + hundred of others lost their life on that ship protecting our country Shld not b forgotten— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) March 20, 2018
The crew of the Petrel sent a message to The Courier, which said: "Our team is comprised of professional subsea operators and engineers with years of experience in the industry who are truly humbled with the opportunity to honor our fallen servicemen and provide some closure to their families."
The crew credited Allen with making the expedition possible.
Ironically, Kelly Sullivan was at the USS The Sullivans on St. Patrick's Day at its home port of Mayport, Fla., attending a retirement celebration for one of its former commanding officers.
"When this discovery happened, I was sitting on the fantail of the Sullivans...It's unbelievable," Sullivan said.
On her return trip home Sunday, she heard word of the discovery from U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Rich Brown, commander of Navy surface forces and a former commanding officer of the USS The Sullivans. Brown was in Waterloo last November for a 75th anniversary commemoration of the Juneau's sinking. On Monday, Knute Swensen contacted her.
"It's bittersweet, this feeling," Sullivan said. "There's closure. It also opens a wound."
She said her father, Albert's son, Jim Sullivan, reacted with surprise and had similar feelings.
"My first thought was my prayers for all the Juneau families, not just the Sullivan brothers," Kelly Sullivan said, and all veterans and their families. She said her great-grandmother, Alleta Sullivan, never really had closure because her sons' bodies were never recovered and held out hope they may have survived.
Swensen said he watched the Petrel's undersea video in amazement as the crew made out the Juneaus name inscribed across the fantail.
"Seeing that video gave me chills," he said.
He also thought of his father, U.S. Navy Cmdr Robert Swensen, who passed away in April 2016 at age 93 and was very close to his father, the Juneau commander. Knute's grandfather's surname was misspelled as "Swenson" by a staff member at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md., and he never had it corrected. It was at Annapolis, when Robert was a cadet, that the Juneau commander and his son had their last meeting.
In an audio accompanying the video, Kraft of the Petrel expedition notes the ship's bow and stern were found relatively close to each other but the ship's debris was scattered over a mile on the ocean floor -- an indication of the devastating explosion which sunk her.
Most of the sailors were killed during the actual sinking; more than 100 died at sea in the days that followed from wounds, exposure or shark attacks, including George Sullivan, the oldest of the brothers. Ten sailors survived the actual sinking plus a four-person medical crew sent to the USS San Francisco to tend to wounded there prior to the attack.
Swensen hopes the Juneau crew's valor is also remembered. The ship earned multiple battles stars for the engagements in which it fought -- including one the night before its sinking, when it and other outgunned American ships turned back a Japanese task force headed for embattled U.S troops at Guadalcanal.
Sullivan praised Paul Allen's passion for pursuing the expedition -- a lesson she used it as an example for her third-graders at Lincoln Elementary School in Cedar Falls.
"I really admire Mr. Allen and his crew for having the faith to do this," she said, and encouraged her students to pursue their passions as well.
Both were in New York this past November at the 75th anniversary commemoration of the Juneau's sinking at the same Staten Island pier where the ship was commissioned into the Navy in 1997. That ceremony was across New York harbor from the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where the Juneau was commissioned into the Navy and sailed out of the harbor, never to return.
She hopes the USS The Sullivans can sail to the Juneau's final resting place on a future mission, with some of its sailors surviving family members.